Three weeks ago, tablet content publisher OnSwipe announced that its newest update would offer a "channel-surfing" type of experience for tablet users. The launch was embodied through numerous UI updates, improved social sourcing, and improved partnerships with content publishers.
We decided it was time to check in on CEO and founder Jason Baptiste in order to find out more about the business model, how OnSwipe sees the competition, and more.
TabTimes: Tell us a little more about your most recent update…
Baptiste: This was our largest launch since June when we first came out and it's two things. The first thing being our new UI. We re-did everything from the ground up, from the touch libraries we built to swiping between the page scroll effects, and building in momentum scrolling which iOS5 makes possible.
The more profound thing is that we don't think of OnSwipe being another Drupl or another WordPress. We see OnSwipe as a network. If the tablet is the TV of this generation, we want to be the platform powering that.
Who or what determines what appears on each user's screen?
We have forty points of touch interaction, so we're going to start applying data from what articles say and what the touch interactions are, so we can put more relevant data in there to determine what you like.
Right now, it's very basic. We can learn what you're tapping on and what you're not. This is letting publishers get more traffic. We are giving publishers who join OnSwipe more page views, but also more money with better ads. We're also giving you more traffic by distributing your content.
What is the cost to publishers who want to get on your platform?
It's absolutely free. Our belief is that we don't want to take your money. We want to make you money. So it's get started and in under three minutes you can be rolling.
Can anyone with a blog use OnSwipe? Is any sort of interaction needed between users and the customer service team?
Niche bloggers and personal bloggers, can get started in under three minutes. We never talk to them. We have a program for the Hearts, the BBCs, the Ziff Davises of the world who can use the same processes to get started in three minutes. And we have what we call the Icon Program, where we give a little more hands-on to help them get the layouts right.
But our belief is that we are a platform that people can build upon, so we don't do service work. Publishers have offered us one hundred grand to do, say, features A through Z, and that's certainly not a model. But we are making a platform where they can do all of that. It shouldn't be a build vs. buy.
If you want to be done in three minutes, you can be, or you can customize it like with WordPress.
How do you frame yourself in terms of other companies?
Baptiste: It's hard to put yourself in that we're the X of Y. But on the technology side it's a lot of what we've learned for WordPress. Personal blogs use them but so do large publishers like the New York Times. But the bigger vision is that we are building a network where everything is connected and driving traffic, recommending content, is more like Tumblr.
Who do you see as your main competitors?
Our business model is advertising. We are never going to charge for the software at any level. So I think we're going to have people coming at us on that side.
People creating ads in apps are slowly learning that those ads take too long to make, have no scale, etc. That's one set of competitors. Then you have people who do the content side. You've seen the Pressly guys. They're really approaching it like a custom development shop and a CMS. Pay us a hundred grand and we will custom make your stuff. No.
Our thought is you should be able to get on the platform for free, build on top of it, and get traffic from it. We are not a tools company or a bridge technology company like a lot of the competitors out there.
Can you give me some traffic and ad numbers?
Millions of readers, thousands of sites. Engagement 2-3x. Ads perform 50-100 times better than banner ads in apps.
Our ads have geolocation, video, and social. We attribute this to the beauty of print married to the scale of the web. In a magazine, you have beautiful, artistic ads, but banner ads suck. What's the last banner ad you clicked on, let alone remembered?
I think the tablet will allow us to go back to an era of beautiful ads, with the “Just Do It”'s and “Got Milk?”'s driving the campaigns.
How are you working with advertisers?
Our model is very clear. Brands and advertisers want to spend money on the tablet. That's a given at this point. It's still kind of in the experimental dollar phase but it's an incredible audience.
What they've realized in the past year is that they're getting over what we call the app hangover period. They've spent a ton of money, run a lot of campaigns, and didn't get a lot of scale. The ads took way too much time to build, they had to shell out a lot of minimums. App ads don't scale. To make the app ads, they take way too long to deploy. It's like making another app just to do the ad.